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I love Strength in Dark Souls. The satisfaction of staggering Pontiff Sulyvahn and sending hollows flying is a fantastic feeling few builds can hold a candle to.
And yet, despite the power of Strength builds, the weight and requirements to wield these weapons can leave us shield-less and naked. If we want to wield the giant club or Yhorm’s Great Machete, we must design our builds carefully or risk getting thrashed before delivering a single hit!
In this Dark Souls 3 Strength Build guide, I’ll review how we can wield devasting Strength weapons without compromising our Poise or HP. As a bonus, I’ll detail alternative Strength weapons that offer an excellent alternative if we’re unsatisfied with our weapon’s slow windup or want a nice auxiliary effect to bleed or freeze our foes.
Bottom Line Up Front
Pick the Warrior starting class and wield the Battle Axe until we have enough points of Strength to switch to Vordt’s Hammer after transposing their soul. Invest in Vigor, Strength, Vitality, and Endurance to wield heavier armor for more Poise, deal more damage, and stagger bosses more often.
The Strength Stat : A Barbarian’s Best Friend
One of the few stats required for weapon-wielding besides Dexterity, Faith, and Intelligence, the Strength stat is tied to wielding heavier weapons like the Fume Ultra Greatsword, Yhorm’s giant machete, and Vordt’s Hammer. While Strength weapons excel at making quick work of enemies and staggering bosses, these builds come with severe drawbacks that can leave us open to retaliation and death if we’re too slow.
Therefore, I recommend applying the tips below to make our playstyle easier.
Anticipate Enemy Attacks
While lighter weapons like swords and daggers generally give us time to react to and dodge or block enemy attacks, heavier-strength weapons force us to commit to more prolonged moves. Before swinging, I recommend judging the length of our given weapon, seeing how far our Machete or Greatsword can reach, and if we have enough time to deliver our attack before the Pontiff Knight tears us to pieces.
Luckily, while this might require great caution around bosses, the increased ability to stagger bosses can give us more room to riposte and heal during these pauses. Overall, I recommend attacking before an opponent reaches us and being more patient, judging openings for a boss’s attack before we go in for the strike.
The Power of Poise
While we can anticipate most enemy attacks, we’ll likely take a hit or two during Vordt’s Hammer’s swing that could halt and punish our aggression. However, if we have enough Poise, we can effectively reduce or negate these instances, allowing us to tank through enemy attacks to deal more damage.
To raise our Poise, we’ll have to equip heavier armor which requires gradually investing in our vitality stat. Though I’ve listed the armor and items we’ll need below (ideally Havel’s Ring and the Ring of Favor), I recommend gradually putting points into Vitality once we have the necessary equipment.
While the requirements for these weapons can be absurdly high, going as high as 70 points for some, we can artificially increase our Strength by two-handing weapons. To specify, two-handing a weapon increases our Strength stat by half of our original strength stat.
For example, if we had a Strength stat of 20, but we wanted to use the Great Club, which has a Strength requirement of 28, two-handing the Great Club would add half of our Strength stat to ourselves (20/2 = 10), giving us 30 points of Strength (20 + 10 = 30) allowing us to wield that club.
So, if we put enough points in Strength, two handing can let us bypass dozens of levels, allowing us to wield even late-game boss weapons or take advantage of high scaling to deal absurd amounts of damage!
While the most optimal strength build can one-shot most enemies and put bosses in fatal stun locks, the souls and weapons required to reach that point can take interminable grinding and unavailable Titanite Scales.
Luckily, we can employ plenty of weapons with Strength to hold us over before we get Yhorm’s Great Machete or Vordt’s Hammer to start our Strength build. I recommend the following rings, weapons, and stats at the given stages to maximize our Strength build.
Early Game: Dawn of the Destroyer
As we start the game, our options for leveling our character and wielding weapons are limited. To specify, our character stats and weapon availability force us to stick to a small selection before we can work towards wielding more powerful weapons.
Even so, the game starts us off with an excellent weapon Strength weapon that can hold us over until midgame before we have to pivot to a more effective weapon for later enemies and bosses.
Areas: Graveyard of Ash – Road of Sacrifices
Levels: 7 – 30
Burial Gift: Life Ring
- VIG: 14
- STR: 16
- END: 12
- VIT: 11
To begin investing points into our character, we’ll want to prioritize our Vigor first, putting at least 3 of our starting levels into VIG before we can safely start investing into Strength to increase our damage output. While we can effectively ignore Endurance and Vitality for now, we’ll want to think about gradually leveling our Vitality once we gain Vordt’s hammer and loot Morne’s armor from his body.
If we’re less interested in grinding enemies, I recommend acquiring the Covetous Silver Serpent Ring I mention below to have more levels to spend on increasing our health and damage.
Weapon: Battle Axe (STR: 12, DEX: 8)
A violent axe thirsting for battle, the Battle Axe is a fantastic weapon to start our Strength build. With its high damage, quick swings, and buffable attacks, the battle axe offers an easier transition into Strength without having to deal with the build’s extended swings or heavy equip load right away.
Better yet, if we enjoy employing buffs like poison, fire, and bleed, we can switch back to the Battle Axe against a particular foe we’d like to try this against, like fire against the Starved Hounds or Bleed and Dark against the Dancer of the Boreal Valley. Even though the battle axe gets outclassed by later boss weapons, I highly recommend keeping it on us until we can feasibly wield Vordt’s Hammer without compromising our equip load.
Armor: Northern Armor Set
A vicious set of armor for a brutally minded ashen one, the Northern Armor Set offers excellent protection and Poise without impacting our equip load. Though it’s nothing special compared to the other armors that offer more remarkable Poise and protection, the North Armor Set will make do until we can equip Morne’s set gradually.
We get the Northern Armor Set as part of our starting Warrior class.
- Life Ring – Excellent for Undead that appreciate existing, the Life Ring increases our HP by 7%. Frankly, I don’t recommend the Life Ring later on, but it serves its purpose admirably as a starting ring to see us through the early area. We can acquire the Life Ring as a Burial Gift when creating our character at the start of the game.
- Chloranthy Ring – A green clover ring with a violent appetite, the Chloranthy Ring offers quicker stamina recovery for combat, dodging, and running away! I highly recommend the Chloranthy Ring, especially as we start investing points in our endurance to keep ourselves on the attack to stun enemies faster. We can find the Chloranthy Ring in the Undead Settlement after jumping down from the lift, helping Siegward fight the Fire Demon, scaling the nearby building, and jumping onto the adjacent roof to find the Ring.
- Covetous Silver Serpent Ring – A ring of greed for those thirsting for more, the Covetous Silver Serpent Ring increases the amount of souls we gain from defeating foes by 20%. While this Ring doesn’t increase our Strength ability, it’s fantastic for gaining more souls we can spend on leveling with the Firekeeper and investing in our Strength stat.
Though the game expects us to purchase the Tower Key to access the Bell Tower and the rafters of Firelink Shrine that house this key, we can perform a nifty little jump to reach this area without spending the 20000 souls.
To perform the jump, head to the back of Firelink Shrine and run up the tree. In the middle of the run, we can jump to our right to land atop the roof. From here, we can head through an opening at Firelink Shrine’s front and head across Pickle Pee’s nest, whack an illusionary wall, and find the Covetous Silver Serpent Ring inside the chest.
Midgame: The Frosty Fiend
Once we’ve beaten the initial bosses, started leveling our character, and collected enough armor and rings, we can build our character meticulously, gradually increasing our equip load and damage output. While there’s a certain thresholding to cross in equipping Vordt’s hammer and having the sufficient pose to tank enemy attacks, meeting this threshold allows us to foreseeably deal with nearly every enemy in the game.
Areas: Cathedral of the Deep – Irithyll of the Boreal Valley
Levels: 30 – 50
- VIG: 23
- STR: 24
- END: 14
- VIT: 15
With more levels of Strength at our disposal, we can effectively wield Vordt’s Hammer and enjoy the staggering amount of damage the weapon deal to bosses and regular foes. While equipping this weapon will likely impact our equip load, forcing us to unequip pieces of armor to wield Vordt’s Hammer without fat rolling, we can start investing in Vitality and gradually work towards wearing the entire set.
Armor: Morne’s Set
A dark set of armor worn by Eygion of Carim, Morne’s set boasts an impressive poise for a heavy but fair price in equip load. While we’ll likely be unable to fully equip Morne’s set right away, we can gradually put on pieces of it as we increase our Vitality and leverage Havel’s Ring and the Ring of Favor.
We can obtain the armor early by killing Eygion of Carim. I recommend kicking Eygion from his resting spot in the Undead Settlement until he falls to his doom, then reloading the game to collect the armor from his corpse.
Weapon: Vordt’s Hammer (STR: 30)
A giant hammer from the Icy starting boss of the game, Vordt’s Hammer offers heavy damage with a fantastic frostbite auxiliary effect. While other Strength weapons like Yhorm’s Great Machete have better scaling and deal more damage, its early availability, frostbite effect, and high ability to stagger means we can nearly effortlessly confront every boss in the game (excluding Darkeater Midir) with an entirely upgraded weapon.
We can get Vordt’s Hammer after defeating Vordt of the Boreal Valley and transposing their souls with the Kiln of Transposition after talking with Ludleth.
- Havel’s Ring: The essential Ring for a Strength build, Havel’s Ring increases our maximum equip load by 15%, allowing us to enjoy wielding heavier armor and weapons without fat-rolling. While the Ring is less potent than in Dark Souls 1, it’s still great for allowing us to wear more of Morne’s set to increase our Poise.
We can find this Ring in the Farron Keep Swamp by climbing the ladder to the Old Wolf of Farron, heading up the lift to fight the Stray Demon, and transposing its soul with Ludleth to get Havel’s Ring.
- Ring of Favor: An all-around great ring for a more survivable build, the Ring of Favor increases our Vigor by 3%, our endurance by 9%, and our equip load by 5%. While the extra health and the endurance are adequate, adding to our maximum carry weight is a welcome addition for a more poise-heavy build.
We can obtain the Ring of Favor after heading to the building following Pontiff Sulyvahn’s boss fight and descending into the basement to fight the two beasts guarding Archdeacon McDonnel’s corpse. Beating the Beasts rewards the Ring of Favor.
Knight Slayer’s Ring: An excellent ring for demolishing foes’ Poise, the Knight Slayer’s Ring allows us to poise and riposte enemies attempting to guard our attacks regularly. While this attack is less useful against bosses, it lets us stay on the offensive forever.
We can find the Ring in the Smouldering Lake at the bottom of the ancient ruins after passing by the basilisks and defeating Knight Slayer Tsorig. Defeating the foe rewards the Ring and the Fume Ultra Greatsword.
- Lloyd’s Sword Ring: A welcome addition for hitless players, Lloyd’s Sword Ring increases our weapon’s damage by 10% if we’re at full health. While this weapon is less useful in poison swamps and when facing off against several enemies at once, the addition of damage can be enough to stagger bosses and one-shot foes.
We can find Llyod’s Sword Ring in the Cathedral of the Deep in the alcove where the Giant tries to crush us with its hand.
Late-Game: The Hulking Hollowed Hero
To cap off our playthrough of Dark Souls 3, we can finish building our character with several more character points and bring Vordt’s hammer to +10 to absolutely demolish foes. Though the building is more of the same (i.e. more points into STR, VIT, VIG, and END), we can finally fully adorn our character in Morne’s armor and roleplay a little as the edgy dog-head warrior if we like!
Areas: Profaned Capital – Kiln of the First Flame
Levels: 50 – 80
- VIG: 28
- STR: 30
- END: 17
- VIT: 20
By this point, we’ll be dealing a monstrous amount of damage with our high Strength and wearing heavier armor for Poise with our increasing Vitality. While we can worry slightly less about bringing our Strength up, by 40, it’ll barely impact Vordt’s Hammer past that.
So we can start investing more into endurance to take repeated swings and enjoy more frequent staggers.
Weapon: +5 Vordt’s Hammer (STR: 30)
To be completely frank, a fully upgraded Vordt’s Hammer with at least 30 Strength will obliterate every boss in the game (excluding Darkeater Midir) and stagger the Soul of Cinder every 4 or 5 swings. Though I had to make a short trip to Archdragon Peak to gather enough Titanite Scales to bring the weapon to max level, it was absurd how easily this weapon demolished the late-game bosses.
I highly recommend this fantastic weapon if we want an effective and enjoyable end to Dark Souls 3.
Armor: Morne’s Set
By this point, we’ll be better able to wear a complete set of Morne’s armor. While we can still get staggered by some higher-level enemies, if we’re willing to dodge occasionally, we can easily endure the worst the game has to throw at us with this excellent armor set.
- Havels Ring: Like above, Havel’s Ring offers an excellent addition to our Poise. I recommend continuing to wear it alongside the Ring of Favor to maximize our equip load so we can fully adorn Morne’s set.
- Ring of Favor: Like before, the Ring of Favor is an excellent addition to our equip load. I recommend leveraging it until we can access the Ring of Favor +3 in the Dreg Heaps.
- Chloranthy Ring: With more endurance at our disposal, I recommend switching back to the Chloranthy ring to make greater use of our ever-expanding Stamina. Though we may deal less damage with the Llyod’s sword ring equipped, it’ll be easier to increase the frequency of our swings and enemy staggers.
- Knight’s Ring: In lieu of a ceremony, we can wear the knight’s Ring to earn 5 additional points of Strength and ascent to Knighthood! While five extra points of Strength are nothing special, they can save us tens of thousands of souls, especially at the latter levels.
We can find the Knight’s Ring in Lothric Castle just before the dragon armor boss fight, up a ladder, and by the sunlight shrine.
Post-Game/PvP: The Gargantuan God-Destroyer
After we’ve effectively beat the game, we can start going through the DLC of the Ringed City and Fires of Ariandel if we haven’t already.
Though our equipment from before will carry us through well enough, we’ll have to make some adjustments if we want to slay Darkeater Midir and battle foes in PvP.
Areas: The Dreg Heaps – The Ringed City
Levels: 80- Onwards
- VIG: 38
- STR: 40
- END: 19
- VIT: 28
By this point, we’ve built a highly resilient character, able to wield and deliver massive attacks with robust health and armor. While we can still spend points in Strength, we’ll effectively stop dealing more damage at 66 points and should prioritize putting more points in Survivability to wield even more protective armor.
Weapon: Yhorm’s Machete (STR: 38)
A Giant’s Machete with a fierce temper, Yhorm’s machete is an excellent weapon for tackling foes in PvP and fighting Darkeater Midir. With extremely reactive timing, we can leverage several smashes of Yhorm’s machete to pound foes into the ground in PvP and to reach Midir’s head better.
We can obtain Yhorm’s Machete after defeating Yhorm the Giant and using his soul at the transposing Kiln with Ludleth.
Armor: Smough Set
Armor of the largest knight of Anor Londo, the Smough Set can take a whopping 66 points of Vitality to wear without fat rolling, while we can bring the cost down with Havel’s Ring and The Ring of Favor, I recommend intermixing Smough’s set with Morne’s set so we can gradually take on this heavy burden.
After defeating Aldrich the Devourer, we can purchase Smough’s set from the Shrine Handmaiden.
- Havel’s Ring +3: An improved version of the Havel’s Rings, this version offers 19% more equip load than the original’s 15%. We can find Havel’s Ring in the Ringed City on one of the ledges down from where Dark Spirit Ledo invades us.
- Ring of Favor +3: An evolved variant of the Ring of Favor, this version offers 6% more health, 12% more Stamina, and 8% more Equip Load. We can find this version in the Dreg Heap partway up a giant tree branch in the green swamp.
It’s also related to Lapp’s (amnesia Patches) questline, so keep that in mind if we want to progress the quest of the innocent tin man.
- Chloranthy Ring +3: An upgraded version of its predecessor that regenerates 10 stamina a second, the Chloranthy Ring is a fantastic addition now that we have a rapidly expanding stamina bar. We can find the Chloranthy Ring +3 ring in the Ringed City after taking the lift down from the Ringed Inner Wall bonfire shortcut and looking for the secret passage in the middle of the ride. Following the same path to reach Darkeater Midir, instead look for the dropdown to Gywn’s statue to pick up the Ring.
- Knight’s Ring: Like before, the Knight’s Ring offers an excellent helping of Strength that can now save us over 100000 souls in level-ups! I recommend keeping the Ring in mind if we want to respec our character at Rosaria’s bedchamber.
If we’re not a fan of Vordt’s Hammer or want a weapon that holds up on NG+, we can leverage these more Stat demanding weapons below. Be warned that some of these weapons require significant investments in Vitality to wield without fat rolling.
Fume Ultra Greatsword (STR: 50, DEX: 10)
One of 2 Strength weapons with an “S” Ranked scaling, the Fume Ultra Greatsword can be a welcome addition for a second playthrough if we keep leveling Strength. While I’m generally lukewarm about its slow swings, the Fume Ultra Greatsword can pull its weight in NG+ with its ever-increasing damage.
We can find the Fume Ultra Greatsword and the aforementioned Knight Slayer Ring in the Smouldering Lake at the bottom of the ancient ruins after passing by the basilisks and defeating Knight Slayer Tsorig.
Ledo’s Great Hammer (STR: 60)
The highest damage-dealing hammer in all of Dark Soul 3, Ledo’s Great Hammer can be a worthwhile weapon if we can spare the Strength and equip load required to wield it. While I generally don’t recommend using it on a first playthrough (i.e. we’ll sacrifice most of our Poise, making it easy for enemies to stagger us into oblivion), I advise keeping it in our reserves for a second playthrough when we have enough points in Vitality to justify wielding the weapon.
We can find Ledo’s Great Hammer by defeating his Invader in the Ringed City nestled in the rock outcropping we can reach in the corners of the city.
Great Club (STR 28)
A giant tree branch destined to bonk our foes, the Great Club is an admirable Strength weapon that deals a decent amount of damage and is frankly hilarious in combat. While Vordt’s Hammer outperforms this club in damage and its frostbite axillary effect, we can buff the Great Club to enjoy more variety in boss battles.
We can take the Great Club from the club-wielding member of the two Watchdogs of Farron guarding the ladder to Farron’s keep. I recommend partially climbing the ladder down so the watchdog can hilariously fall to their doom, allowing us to loot their crumpled corpse.
Question: What is the Best Strength Weapon in Dark Souls 3?
Answer: While this is highly subject to personal playstyles, with enough points to allocate, Ledo’s Hammer can deal the most damage, arguably making it the best Strength Weapon in Dark Souls 3. However, given the high cost in Strength and Vitality required to wield this weapon, it’ll likely offer very little utility until a second playthrough, and we’re more likely to get value from a Vordt’s Hammer or Yhorm’s Machete.
Question: How Many Points of Strength Does Two-Handing Give in Dark Souls 3?
Answer: Two-handing takes half of our current Strength (20/2 = 10) and adds it to our preexisting Strength (20 + 10 = 30), allowing us to wield heavier weapons and abuse scaling to deal absurd amounts of damage. Also, if we divide an odd number of Strength (21/2 = 10.5), the number is rounded down (10.5 = 10).
Question: How do I Wield a Heavy Weapon in Dark Souls 3 Without Fat Rolling?
Answer: While we can put points in Vitality to increase our maxim equip load to keep our equip load below 70 (the threshold for fat rolling), we can also put on rings that increase our equip load, like Havel’s Ring or the Ring of Favor. I also recommend removing unnecessary shields from our character and wearing lighter armor to wield heavy weapons in a pinch.
Strength Build: Final Thoughts
All-in-all, I adore playing with a Strength build. Staggering and knocking down the undead is an eternal delight that never grows old with each leaping attack of Vordt’s Hammer.
Though this run prevented us from experimenting with other Dexterity and Faith builds and briefly cost us our shirt (we’ve got lower that equip load somehow!), the straightforward combat and upgrade path is a welcome addition. After scouring Dark Souls 3 for Irina and Rickert, then arduously looking for their spell books only to accidentally drive Irina mad, I was glad to focus on gathering titanite scales for a singular weapon.
Regardless, we can pat ourselves on the back for building a gigantic undead with enough muscle to make Gwynevere blush and Smough cry. Whether we intend to build a new dexterity, intelligence, or faith character or take Stronk Strongson on more adventures is up to us! The fire awaits its strongest champion yet!
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